FANGIRL FRIDAY: WYSIWYG?

a.k.a. Reading and Watching as a Writer

Do you try to lose yourself in a story only to find yourself noticing things like plot holes, inconsistencies, or inspiration for a story idea? Is it really what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG)? Once I’m in writer mode, I find it challenging to detach and just enjoy a story for what it is. The complete opposite was true when I had stopped writing for a while. I didn’t have the drive to write so my consumption of stories were more to pass the time than to actually study them. Is there a middle ground?

As a visual learner, when I read a book, I’m also catching myself observing everything from word choice to syntax. I even look at the formatting and layout. The placement of words on a page, the punctuation, the font choices, they each have a specific intention and impact. So do typos or misprints. In movies, we have artistic choices of camera angles, lighting, marrying words and action together for the most impactful or meaningful scene. Each book, show, and movie you dive into is a masterclass in storytelling, the dos and the don’ts, or even the whys and the why the heck nots.

Are there really any rules in story creation? Sure, there are tried and true formulas that people swear by while others opt to break from convention. Just this week, the topic for specific story templates (rom-com, hero’s journey, etc.) were up for debate in one of my writing groups. I’m going to delve further into these and my WIPs on an upcoming Writerly Wednesday post.

While I don’t make definitive reading/viewing decisions based on ratings, it’s interesting to see what other people think prior to and after I experience the medium. I look at descriptions and (hopefully) spoiler-free reviews on sites such as Goodreads, IMDB, and Rotten Tomatoes. Since we’re not currently interfacing with friends and family like we used to, social media is where I go for in-depth discussion–or all-out word wars–on opinions and observations of the piece. I like watching YouTube videos that break down plot points or explore hidden meanings behind the various Easter eggs that are sprinkled throughout a movie or episode. When I’m left with more questions than answers, I like to find out what other people are thinking, too.

Much like previously mentioned in regards to music, each of us also see and appreciate books, tv, and film differently. So whether I’m seeing things as a writer or consumer, it makes for interesting discussions when I bring up something that intrigued me that someone else missed or vice versa. It’s also worthwhile to have those discussions how it might appear that we’re looking at the same thing and come away with very different interpretations.

Whether it’s on paper, device, or screen, it’s not necessarily a bad thing if your writer brain is permanently switched on. We should soak in every learning opportunity where we can. It makes us better writers. You can discover in real time what other people think of the book, show, or film. From that you can determine what not to do or how you’d tackle the same challenge differently. One thing is for certain, when I finish reading or seeing a great story unfold, I’m excited and inspired to make sure my stories are the best they can be so I can share them with the world, too.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

WRITERLY WEDNESDAY: The Music in Me Vol. 1

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Hello and a Happy Hump Day to you!

This month, I decided to bring back Writerly Wednesday, the series where I share things I’m up to regarding my WIPs and any new projects on the horizon. Fan fiction I’ll still keep for Fangirl Fridays. Haven’t decided yet if I’ll do these along with or alternate them with my Friday posts. Ideally, I’d like to get more words out to help me stay on course in my writing journey. Thank you, as always, for joining me here.

Do you listen to music as you write? What type of music interests you? I’d love to hear what other writers enjoy and utilize in their creative process. Some people have said that music inspires a productive writing session. I’ve tried that in the past. My tastes are eclectic. I enjoy the classics, be it from 30 to 300 years ago. I have more movie and television scores and soundtracks in my collection than I have or heard of the current Top 40. Regardless of the genre, while I do love music that has lyrics, I often get distracted by the words while I write because I start singing along and losing focus on the task at hand.

[Image Credits: Woman listening to music while writing, Woman singing. I provide clickable links on the images I use, These are listed because I haven’t been able to figure out how to link individual images in gallery displays yet. 😊]

Because of this, I’ve taken it a step further and have created soundtracks specific to my projects. I’ve actually mapped out scenes where I can imagine the score or song playing in the background in time to the intensity or emotional flow of the moment. In these cases, if the song has lyrics, they do matter in how the scene unfolds. Other times, I’d find a piece of music that speaks to me, relate it to the WIP I have before me and create a scene from there.

Does it always work? No. But it makes for an interesting writing exercise where I discover a perspective I hadn’t noticed before, nuances in character dynamics that had not yet been explored if not for letting the music move me through the plot. It can take me out of my comfort zone, at times, but it’s intriguing, as well. I’ve often kept the newer take on the same scene as I’ve found it works better in the story.

It’s important to keep in mind that as with anything, perception and interpretation can differ with each person. I can interpret the words to a song and find a sad connection to a memory that resonates each time I hear it. Another person might hear those same words and music and feel nostalgia. As readers and writers, we each bring something different to the table. Therefore, music is a transformative experience tailored to the individual listening to it. Same goes for the reader’s experience. Harnessing those emotions in each scene we write can have greater impact on the reader as they immerse themselves in our stories.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

FANGIRL FRIDAY: A Picture’s Worth

Hello, fam!

It’s been a few days into the Get Your Words Out 2021 Challenge and things are going well. I don’t feel the intense pressure of word counts, so I’m glad I chose the Habit Pledge instead. Though sign ups are done for this year, It’s worth a look to see what’s entailed in such a challenge. You can then decide if you want to partake next year. Meanwhile, feel free to do a variation of the challenge right along with us!

I’ve been continuing my dabblydoo with the planning software called Plottr, the software created by writers for writers. I think I need to do more than take it for a test drive before I can do an in-depth review, so stay turned for that in a later post. So far, I’ve found that it’s a robust program that can help you visually plan your stories more efficiently. Now, of course, most of it is visual in the strictest sense, but with the use of timelines and the ability to track subplots and every character’s journey throughout the story, you literally cannot miss a beat, because you’ll see everything laid out in front of you. More on that later.

What I did want to talk about today was the use of photos in story creation. As a visual learner and writer, I find that the ideas flow more readily when I have a face to go with a name or a visual representation of a place in which my characters live and explore.

I’ve gone through my WIPs and have created character sheets with corresponding pictures to help bring the characters to life. To do this, I’ve done a deep dive into the the interwebs to look up actor photoshoots, magazine spreads, or even more helpful, actual stills from television and film that show them in similar attire to what inspired the character I’ve created. In addition to the people in my “neighborhood,” there are a plethora of photographs, artistic renderings, and stills that capture the places I’ve visualized for my stories.

I’ve created folders on my desktop to organize these visuals. I have a folder called Story Settings that contain anything from landscapes, cityscapes, post-apocalyptic suburbia, ethereal forest dwellings, to mysterious and ominous castles. My Character folder has a slew of subfolders with some of my favorite faces from the big and small screen already attributed to characters for the different books and genres I’ve got brewing. Included therein are unique animal pics that go well with the Middle Grade Adventure that involves talking animals, because why not?

In recent years, I have made a conscious effort to do some recasting. I’ve mentioned in previous posts the lack of diversity in books, TV, and film I had growing up, so it’s my chance to be proactive in my writing. I do believe that a character’s ethnicity is secondary to the story. If cultural references are necessary to the plot, then I want to make sure those are woven in organically so that nothing seems forced upon the reader. And if such references are merely part of their routine, I have that earmarked as well to smoothly incorporate details where needed. To that end, having a visual of what these characters look like somehow switches on something as I write and things they would do in their daily life seem to reveal themselves more naturally.

Another way pictures have proved useful are as writing prompts. Whether it was an actor in a known moment from their show or film, to a visual that might set the scene in a chapter, these pictures are the spark that can ignite a very fruitful writing session.

How are things going on your side of the screen? Do you use actor photos as character inspiration? Do you have favorite websites where you curate the most beautiful landscapes to represent the world where your characters live and breathe? We’re lucky to be in such an evolving technological era that allows us to be everywhere and with everyone in an instant. That fact alone is truly inspiring.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

Represent!

As a child of the 80s and 90s, I was privy to the dynamic evolution of media and social media, as a whole. When it came to seeking out my people on such platforms, however, it was sorely lacking. In researching for today’s post, I found myself immersed in nostalgia and the absence of relatable content.

Years later, I see big moments for Black, Indigenous, and People Of Color (BIPOC) and we’ve come a long way. I feel that as a POC writer, I have a responsibility to provide relatable content that was missing for me when I was looking for ways to understand who I was in this world. That journey continues to this day.

There are the token minorities in books, tv, or film or the headlines that make novelty of who we are. For instance, in a recent article, the headline included the phrase Black Batman. Did they mean that the comic would be about a black man taking on the persona of the Caped Crusader or were they actually now qualifying the superhero himself? “Look! It’s the Black Batman!” doesn’t have that catchy vibe. Why is this even news? Why can’t we be telling stories about complex and flawed characters and not have to point out the person’s ethnicity in order to drive the story forward?

Shouldn’t we be able to tell a captivating story that can reach millions of people without bringing race into the equation?

I, myself, am part of the problem, to a degree. I grew up reading and watching certain characters that I began writing what I knew. Margaret asking God if he’s there, the twins at Sweet Valley High, the spy named Harriet. All girls at different times in their lives and all people that looked nothing like me.

At least in a couple movies, I had Short Round and Richard ‘Data’ Wang (incidentally played by the same actor, Ke Huy Quan). But for the most part, if I were to follow a certain show on a regular basis, the person I connected with the most was the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air? Appsh!

But where were my people at?

For most of my life, I thought I was of Chinese, Filipino, and Spanish heritage. However, thanks to Ancestry.ca, I’ve learned that my lineage breakdown is as follows: 58% Southern China, 37% Northern Philippines, 5% Southern Philippines with a fluctuation in percentages in Myanmar, whatever that statistic means. Outside of programming I watched while I lived in the Philippines for a decade or so, I didn’t see or read much about people like me to feel a connection.

It warmed my heart to discover that Blue’s Clues & You (a reboot of the popular Blue’s Clues I watched with my nephew and niece when they were younger), returned with a Filipino character. In a recent episode, he introduced his grandmother and they ate a Filipino dessert together. They also showed a traditional sign of respect to one’s elders. This was a perfect example of how people should be able to see the lives of others unfold in the story with the cultural references or ethnic-related issues woven into the narrative in an organic way.

Yes, I was thrilled with Mulan and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. But what about stories in the more recent here and now, of it all? With great works such as The Joy Luck Club, Crazy Rich Asians, Black Panther, Andi Mack. and the heartwarming Over the Moon, I was starting to feel a better immersion of relatable storytelling.

Prior to that, I was more into stories with talking animals, robots, or other entities, because I could just dive into a story and focus on the characters rather than the literal color of their skin. In upcoming posts, I’m going to talk more about the novels I’ve been working on and how I felt the need to make some serious changes because of this current hot button issue.

When I searched for Over the Moon on Netflix, it was under a category called the Representation Matters Collection. Representation does matter, but we need to work towards an era where the discussion of it won’t matter anymore because it’s a common occurrence.

As I posted to my POC writers’ group, I’m proud of how far we’ve come when it comes to representation in books, tv, and film, but I hope that one day, representation in these and other forms of media is no longer breaking news, but just another facet of intriguing and relatable storytelling.

As always, stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

The Games We Play

a.k.a “Tag, You’re It!”

A couple months ago, I received an email about Yahoo Groups shutting down after 20 years. Boy, does that take me back. I don’t even have my Yahoo or Hotmail email addresses anymore. I had rejoined some writing groups via Yahoo Groups within the last eight years, or so, using my Gmail account, but seeing that email was like hopping in the Delorean and punching it to 88.

I heard once more the melodic bleep blorps of dial up connections. Desktop computers weighed as heavy as the buyer’s remorse from Black Friday impulse purchases.

It was a time when you were filled with excitement at the “uh oh” notification in ICQ. All the cool kids hung out on Friendster before MySpace came in to dominate. The moments of reprieve came when the dial up connection was lost–or someone had to use the landline. Ahem… for those who don’t know, read the definition of ‘landline’ here. (Also known as the “I got it. I said I. Got. It. You can hang up now… I can still hear you breathing Carl! Hang up! Mom/Dad, he won’t hang up! Just a second, Becky, I gotta go maim my brother first.” device). Anyhoo, it gave you the chance to rest your eyes from the visual assault of electric blue text against pink background GeoCities websites.

A bygone era, indeed.

iPhone who? This was the bee’s knees for any tween back in the day.

You may be wondering why an email has caused me to wax nostalgic for online life many, many moons ago? I’ll tell ya. Online roleplaying games.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever participated in this collaborative affair. I’m not talking about the Massively multiplayer online role-playing games that are dominating the interwebs today. MMORPGs are to the more basic online RPGs as the Borg are to Humanoids. The online RPGs I’m referring to used little to no graphics (reserved mostly to the group web page, or Yahoo Group) and we, the faithful participants, used our words to drive the story forward.

Today, I’m taking a stroll down memory lane to recount my experience with these online RPGs and how it helped transform and evolve my writing and online presence.

My first foray into the online RPGing world involved storyline mashups within the Yahoo Groups. You had to audition for the role by writing a scene. Some crossover RPGs had everything from from Buffy the Vampire Slayer notables interacting with the characters from CSI: NY. You could play someone from Smallville playing opposite people from Charmed or The Office. It was glorious.

My regularly “played” characters were: Buffy, Spike, Angel, Xander, Clem, Lorne, Chloe Sullivan, CSI Flack, Dwight, Jim, Wyatt, and Piper among others. I was commended for the scenes reading like they were watching an actual episode. I was told that I nailed the dialogue and I even included song lyrics to add to the ambience of the scene. This was fans’ way of expressing how they wanted a series to continue when the show was cut short before its time.

In this type of game, you’d write your part and then end it with <tag>. Depending on the character(s) you were interacting with, you’d tag them and have intriguing subject lines to create a thread at that location. Some RPGs were very simple in nature while others had elaborate rules and infrastructure. It was technically how I got my feet wet with online critiques of my writing, let alone the fact I was putting my creative writing out there for the world to see.

After a spell, I began to venture further out from shore and joined Star Trek RPGs. This was more complex than the yahoo group iterations due to the more regimented vetting system, the necessity to respect the canon more strictly, and the overall Trek universe, in general. They had a separate server where the game was hosted and you could rise in the ranks, or face a tribunal, if the scenario and your character’s actions called for it. This was certainly more involved as it meant I needed to create my own characters. I still use my Star Trek character handle to this day. Other RPGs were completely made up so original character creation was even more of a necessity.

This was where more of the writing prep overlap came into play. Character bios, descriptions, quirks, etc., were steps that some people didn’t enjoy as much as I did. You had to come up with the character’s back story and do a deep dive into their traits so you knew how to portray them within the parameters of the game. This process is similar to tabletop RPGs such as Dungeons & Dragons.

I learned quickly what people liked and liked less about my writing because I got instant feedback with each tag. It also kept me on my toes because my next post was dependent on the other player’s response. There were other opportunities where I could collaborate with one or more players on a joint post so that it read more fluidly, much like a chapter of a novel.

We’re in such a visual era, we now have streaming platforms where people just watch a person play a video game. Everything’s changing so quickly. With VR gaining even more traction, there’ll be a whole new way of gaming immersion that will thrill our senses faster than you can type “a/s/l” in a chatroom text box.

I miss the games of yore. Be it online RPGs or tabletop games with friends. The collaboration and creativity was pure enjoyment and inspired what was to become this website and the future projects I’ll be sharing here hopefully in the new year.

Oh, and for those who enjoyed ICQ, it’s still alive and kickin’ online. A newer platform was released this year. You can “uh oh” to your heart’s content. And when we can safely travel using public transit again, you can be sure to annoy your neighbors on the train with the various chirps the app has to offer.

As always, stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time… Game on!

T out.